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How lucky Greensboro was – and is – in its choice for Music Director of its fine symphony orchestra! Ours is an era of conductors jetting between orchestras and having little contact with local communities beyond their performances, but Dmitry Sitkovetsky is determined to fight this antiseptic and anonymous trend. To build musical relationships with his orchestra and to enrich the culture of the city, his chosen weapon is chamber music. A trial run in the 2004-5 season – during which the musicians donated their services – has borne fruit. Rice Toyota is sponsoring this season's concerts, so the artists will be paid, and the September 23 opening concert drew a significantly larger audience than last year, when the audiences built up slowly.
Sitkovetsky – like several CVNC critics – despairs of the quick hit-and-run nature of big-name concert soloists – a rehearsal, a performance, perhaps a repeat, and they're gone. We have all heard too many performances that were "generic" and "phoned-in." When he selects guest soloists, Sitkovetsky looks for musicians who will commit to a concerto performance and the extra rehearsals needed for chamber music programs. Speaking from the UNC Greensboro Recital Hall stage, he said he was finding many artists who welcomed the change and the chance for more contact with the communities they visit. He looks for rising talent, such as the featured guest on this occasion, Eugen Tichindeleanu, winner of the 2003 International George Enescu Violin Competition.
One of the many jewels in the treasure chest of chamber music by Antonín Dvorák is the Terzetto in C, Op. 74. Shortly after orchestrating the second series of Slavonic Dances in 1886, the composer, a violist, wrote two string terzettos for himself and two violin students, who lived in his house. The first terzetto proved too hard for student violinist Josef Kruis, but – needless to say! – Sitkovetsky, a world-class player, found no difficulties! His full, golden tone graced the composer's irresistible melodies and vital folk-like dances. The rich bass-baritone of GSO Principal Violist Scott Rawls made the perfect foil for the two violinists. There was nothing tentative about Tichindeleanu's approach to the second violin part: when he had the solo line, he played with unreserved fire and with warm tone and excellent intonation. Throughout all four movements, it was heavenly to see and hear the three instruments explore all possible combinations of pairings – now two violins playing perfectly together, soaring over Rawls' solid bass-line; now all three as one; now each violin on the wing, singing in turn above the others and the viola's accompaniment. This wonderful piece is all too rare in the concert hall and on recordings!
Any hesitations I may have felt about Tichindeleanu's musical armory during his first performance of Bruch's "Scottish Fantasy" vanished during his fiery and passionate performance of Beethoven's Sonata No. 7 in C Minor, Op. 30, No. 2. This dramatic sonata is a glorious example of the composer's Sturm und Drang period, with slashing fortissimo chords set against tender lyricism. There was technique to burn as he bowed the fast opening movement and phrased with consummate style. There was nothing sentimental about the forthright spinning of song during the second movement. The sprightly scherzo was rhythmically vital, and the finale featured a bustling fugato that provided a thrilling headlong dash to the end. The sonata is for piano and violin, and at every point – indeed, often taking the lead at the beginning of some movements – was the ardent and superbly balanced piano playing of Inara Zandmane, an accompanist at the UNCG School of Music. Any solo recital she might play would surely be a highlight of the season!